To be aware of your own mental health or your own mind and how and why we are the way we are can really help you understand yourself and help you navigate life with a little more ease.
Everything we have done and experienced leading up to this point has shaped who we are and also how we react to situations; in moments of conflict do you shy away or fight? In moments of love are you open or closed? Learning more about yourself can help you heel, recognise bad habits and grow good ones.
Dr Shefali (www.drshefali.com) says something really interesting about how from the minute we are born we are our own people, your parents and those around you can guide you but you are the one that will create your own reactions to things in front of you when you are very young. An example of this might be, how you respond to being passed around to be held by the whole extended family. This situation might make some of us feel loved and we might enjoy the attention of new people but for others this could be a really scary experience that isn’t liked, creating anxiety that stays with you growing up. A parent can’t know how you will react at such a small age or necessarily understand what your reaction is unless it’s a strong one that’s instantly recognisable like crying or laughter. From this very early age you then start creating your own coping mechanisms and it isn’t until we are much older that we start to know what these are or whether they work in an adult environment.
Jeffery Kluger is an expert in the influence of siblings and he talks a lot about the natural running order of where you were born in the line up of your family.
This means that the position you are born in to your family can predetermine your personality traits, for example, statistically if you are the oldest child you are more likely to be the confident one, having had time unshared with your parents and being celebrated more for each first thing you achieved. There is a great article on this subject here: https://www.parents.com/baby/development/sibling-issues/how-birth-order-shapes-personality/
Recognising these traits about yourself and your siblings can offer real insights in to how you’ve learnt to deal with situations as an adult. This in turn can help you recognise your negative coping strategies, you know the ones that don’t work or let you down when you’re under pressure like bursting in to tears in a meeting or punching a wall when your phone doesn’t work…yeah you know what I’m talking about.
A personal example from my own experience was something I learnt through counselling, I realised I was creating a very toxic and negative environment in my own mind worrying about all the bad things that people could say to me or all the awful things that could happen in each possible scenario. This recognition of what I was doing took a while to sink in, I mean I had been doing this for years, gradually getting worse and more powerful in my mind. I was trapping myself in this world were I was being continually bullied…but by me!
All the worrying about the bad things that might happen had stopped me being excited for the good things that could happen, or just from living in the moment and enjoying what was happening right there and then.
Learning this and becoming aware of it has become a huge part of unravelling the thought process that I had spent two decades perfecting, helping me to start again and build a new set of coping strategies.
Another huge influence on your personality is of course your parents or the people who raised you. It’s usually not until adulthood that you start to recognise your parents are actual humans with personality flaws just like everyone else. Its a hard pill to swallow finding out that the person who raised you and taught you everything you know, didn’t themselves know what they were doing and had just done the best they could as they went along.
The causes of these misinformed ways of dealing with things are sometimes easy to pin point, other times they are not so easy and sometimes they can be messy and painful to unravel.
It's easy to feel like placing blame on to a parent or sibling for your ‘issues’, but in most cases its really no ones fault, because if Dr Shefali is right then you have been making decisions all by yourself since the moment you were born and baby you just didn’t know any better at the time.
This article is opinion based, I have no qualifications in phycology or counselling only a keen interest. If you are struggling with depression, anxiety or unhappiness please seek help.